Food and Farming

Our Mission is to support the revitalization of a sustainable local food system in Western North Carolina while preserving our mountain farm heritage.

In 2019, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) was awarded $120,000 over three years to expand farmers' direct sales by connecting farmers' markets to consumer demand for healthy eating. Photo courtesy of ASAP.

Supporting the Local Food System and Addressing Food Insecurity

According to Feeding America, one in eight people (one in six children) in the United States is food insecure, and WNC’s food insecurity problems run even deeper where nearly one in four children is food insecure. Although federal Food and Nutrition Services provides some relief, people who are food insecure are still unlikely to qualify for assistance. That leaves too many struggling to keep themselves and their families fed and healthy.

Closely related to food insecurity is the challenge WNC faces to preserve farmland and thereby to ensure locally-grown fruits, vegetables, and other food products for the region. As farmland in WNC becomes difficult or impossible for true farmers to access, the result is a loss of rural, agricultural heritage and the associated local and regional farm economy.

“In WNC, one in four children are food insecure. But there are pockets where as many as four in five kids don’t have enough healthy food to eat.”

— Amy Sims, Western Zone Coordinator and Agency Relations Manager, MANNA FoodBank

Toe River Aggregation Center Training Organization Regional Inc. (TRACTOR) was awarded $50,000 to increase direct-to-consumer sales and to expand the types of food-related businesses and the number of farmers it serves. TRACTOR serves farmers in Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Henderson, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Rutherford and Yancey counties. Photo courtesy of TRACTOR.

How We are Making a Difference

Goals and Objectives

We aim to increase opportunities for local farmers and food entrepreneurs that support the sustainability and profitability of WNC farms and address food insecurity and facilitate nutrition and healthy eating for all.

We will make grants to:

  1. bolster marketing efforts for local foods including branding, post-harvest aggregation, distribution and value added facilities;
  2. support new or transitioning farmers with technical assistance in production and marketing, business training and access to land;
  3. increase access to fresh local foods for all, especially low income families, and
  4. build the capacity of nonprofit organizations to address these goals.

YMCA Healthy Mobile Market truck. Photo courtesy of YMCA of Western North Carolina.

Strengthening the Region

Supporting the YMCA's Healthy Living Mobile Market

To address the combination of food access and transportation barriers, CFWNC awarded $40,000 to the YMCA of Western North Carolina to purchase a new box truck for its mobile market program. Using this method, going mobile with a market program that provides free, nutritious foods for all, the YMCA saw a 49% increase in families served from the 2016-17 to 2017-18 fiscal years. The project aligns with the YMCA’s Nutrition Outreach Department’s recent adoption of a strategy to support the sustainability and profitability of WNC farms by developing new models that allow the YMCA to procure more produce from local farmers.

The Healthy Living Mobile Market program (HLMM) currently serves five WNC counties: Buncombe, McDowell, Madison, Haywood, and Henderson. These counties have a food insecurity rate of 15.4%, substantially higher than the current national rate of 12.9%. In addition to providing food and recipes, the HLMM brings partners to market locations who can address other issues for market participants who need them, ultimately broadening the food and social safety net. Past partners have included Pisgah Legal Services and the Council on Aging.

Photo courtesy of Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina.

Protecting the Rural Landscape in Rutherford County

CFWNC awarded $15,000 to Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina to partner with a neighboring land trust, Conserving Carolina and the Polk and Rutherford county Soil & Water Conservation District staff to study the agricultural landscape in Rutherford County and Polk County around the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), a major economic development project.

While TIEC offers a source of economic growth, it is causing a decline in affordable farmland for local farmers due to increasing land values and taxes. Increases in land values are occurring because the demand for good farmland is rising as equestrians seek to own property near the TIEC for primary or secondary residences and horse farms.

The project’s long-term purpose is to protect the rural landscape, ensure available and affordable farm property, conserve water resources and ensure access to agricultural markets and resources. The immediate goal is to identify and prioritize farmland conservation opportunities and contact landowners to offer them conservation options for high priority agricultural lands. Specifically, the project partners hope to develop two or three farm conservation easement projects, funded through public and private grant programs, by the end of 2019.

To learn more about our Food and Farming focus area, contact Philip Belcher, Vice President for Programs, at 828-367-9901.